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MONMOUTH PLAYERS IN A SPIRITED REVIVAL

Lori_renick2Actor-director-administrator-set decorator-artistic director Lori Renick readies the detail-intensive set of ‘Blithe Spirit’ for Saturday’s opening at Monmouth Players. (Photos courtesy of Diana Moore)

By TOM CHESEK

It’s a busy Monday evening at Middletown’s Navesink Library, and Lori and Paul Renick are putting the finishing touches to another of their typically labor-intensive set designs even as they begin the crucial final week of rehearsals for their latest show.

At the moment, they’re trying to rig up a plate so that it will fall off the wall on cue.

“Actors like to make things as complicated as they can,” says director-stage manager-set designer and sometime actor Paul. “I try to make things as fail-safe as possible.”


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Carpenters and remodelers by trade, the Highlands couple are charged with reinforcing the physical and spiritual foundations of Monmouth Players, the area’s longest continuously operating theatrical company. And as workaholic visionaries and creative perfectionists, the Renicks have recently added a whole new experimental wing to the venerable institution, rewiring the Players to compete on a slicker, more sophisticated level here in the 21st century.

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ANSORGE GUILTY OF DWI; WILL APPEAL

Municipal Court Judge William Himelman delivered a swift verdict in the long-delayed DWI case of Red Bank Red Hot publisher Claudia Ansorge this afternoon: guilty of driving while intoxicated.

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It wasn’t the blood sample analysis, which had experts and lawyers splitting hairs over margins of error and research done in Sweden two decades ago: nor was it the testimony of a cop who ran Ansorge through a series of sobriety tests that he said indicated she was intoxicated when she struck Robert Lisowsky with her car almost two years ago, leading to his death.

Rather, said Himelman, it was the looming question of how a driver in Ansorge’s position could not have seen Lisowsky as he crossed the nearly 60-foot width of East Front Street near Globe Court.

“The thing that bothered me the most was, why wasn’t she able to observe, at least, someone walking across at least 50 feet of roadway?” Himelman asked in his verdict, which immediately followed the end of testimony.

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ANSORGE TRIAL BEGINS

The DWI trial of publisher Claudia Ansorge got underway in Red Bank municipal court this morning with testimony from a police officer who gave her a series of sobriety tests after an April, 2006 fatal accident involving a pedestrian.

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Lt. Darren McConnell, who heads the traffic safety department, testified that he ran Ansorge through a series of “psycho-physical” coordination tests on a sidewalk on East Front Street, not far from the accident scene where Riverview Medical Center plumber Robert Lisowsky lay in the road being treated. Lisowsky later died of his injuries.

McConnell said that while Ansorge repeatedl asked about Lisowsky’s condition, she was calm, cooperative and did no slur her speech. But because he detected alcohol on her breath and thought she was swaying as she stood, he took her aside and ran the test series. They involved reciting the alphabet, touching the tip of nose, a balance test and other measures.

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INTERNET CAFÉ UNPLUGGED, FOR NOW

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By TOM CHESEK

Anyone know exactly what’s going down down at the Internet Café?

It seems that dozens of ticketholders to an all-ages rock show last Friday night were refused admission to Red Bank’s grooviest grotto, leaving a lot of peed-off band parents and pink-haired teens to freeze outside in the courtyard alleyway.


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Details are sketchy, but redbankgreen has learned that the person manning the door told showgoers that the event — promoted by Avail Entertainment and headlined by the popular MySpace-spawned combo Eyes Set to Kill — had been “oversold.” To say nothing of overcrowded, always a panic-button issue in a town that tends not to look the other way when large groups of people intersect with heavily amplified music.

Patrons who stepped outside were snipped of their plastic wristbands and denied re-entry, while some band members were reported to have had difficulty retrieving their equipment.

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ON THE BLOCK: 170 BROAD STREET

Dweksun_bankMinimum bid: $2.48 million.

Yes, it comes with a bank vault.

The former home of a Sun National Bank branch, 170 Broad Street is up for auction as part of the piecemeal selloff of assets from the bankrupt Solomon Dwek empire.

Dwek, in case you haven’t read the 200-plus stories written about him by the Asbury Park Press, is the guy who… well, here’s the Press boilerplate bio graf:

Dwek lost control of his assets last year after he bounced a $25 million check at a PNC Bank branch in Eatontown. He was charged with bank fraud by the FBI and now creditors say he owes them $350 million.

Back in November, redbankgreen had the scoop on the sale of 7 Broad Street from Dwek’s hastily-assembled collection of properties.

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TALKING MONKEYS: ON DARWIN & RELIGION

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You will be forgiven, in a secular sense at least, for not knowing that there’s something called ‘Darwin Day.’

A dozen years ago, there was only one known celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday — Feb 12, 1809. Now, if we may be so droll, the event has evolved into something with global reach. Some 850 events are said to have been held last year. And somehow, you missed every last one of them.

Well, here’s your invite to this year’s. On Sunday, Feb. 10, the Red Bank Humanists will host a Darwin program featuring a lecture by Julian Paul Keenan, Director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Montclair State University. He’ll take up the topic, “Exploring the Evolutionary Connection Between Religion and Deception.”

A Q&A and, yep, birthday cake will follow.

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IN FAIR HAVEN, A SLIGHTLY SMALLER BITE

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

In a fiscal climate where good news about taxes seems as rare as a celebrity who hasn’t been in rehab, Fair Haven has done the seemingly impossible: lowering its municipal taxes.

The rate in the next budget year will be lower by one half-cent per $100 of assessed valuation, borough officials claim.

“We’re very proud of that,” said Mayor Mike Halfacre. “Nobody can remember the last time taxes went down.”

The reaction was muted at last night’s council meeting, perhaps reflecting surprise. “It’s about time,” called out one resident.

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FAIR HAVEN SETS PARKING FUND

Blaser2Ruth Blaser: “expressly” isn’t good enough.

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Parking will now be more expensive in Fair Haven for expanding stores, restaurants and other enterprises.

The borough council unanimously passed an ordinance last night to create a parking fund. Businesses seeking planning board approval for expansion plans will have to pay the borough $2,500 for each parking space required under municipal law that the business does not provide.

That penalty can be appealed to the borough council, and the “council will decide whether it’s fair or not,” said Mayor Mike Halfacre.

That’s a bargain, added Council President Tom Gilmour, compared to what businesses pay elsewhere.

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RED BANK WON’T PAY COUNTY LIBRARY TAB

Red Bank and a dozen other Monmouth County towns that don’t participate in the county library system — and whose residents don’t have borrowing priveleges in it — won’t get stuck paying some of its costs, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

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From the story:

It turns out that residents of the 13 Monmouth County municipalities not part of the county library system will get a pass on having to chip in for utilities and maintenance costs at the system’s Manalapan and Shrewsbury libraries — where the nonmember residents don’t have free borrowing privileges.

Lillian G. Burry, director of the Monmouth County freeholder board, said talk that those in nonmember towns would have to pay part of that $600,000 annual bill was just that — talk.

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TOWNWIDE YARD SALE ADVANCES ON CURB

Img_2805Yard-sale proponent Audrey Oldoerp.

For a long time, South Street’s Audrey Oldoerp wondered aloud why towns such as Belmar and Atlantic Highlands had annual or even semi-annual yard sales that embraced every street and home, but Red Bank didn’t.

Moreover, with each passing year, Oldoerp saw community calendars spotted with events meant to attract visitors to the downtown — sidewalk sales, jazz festivals, road races and Christmas tree lightings — but litle or nothing designed specifically for the people who live here.

It irked her, and she said so, apparently often enough that her husband, Tim Blankley, suggested that instead of grousing, perhaps she should do something about it.

So for the past year or so, Oldoerp has been on a quest, trying to figure out how a townwide yard sale might happen here and navigating the bureaucracy of local government. And last night, though some possible obstacles were thrown in her path, she moved the idea into the public realm.

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SUSPECT NABBED IN STABBING

A River Street man is in custody after a fight Friday afternoon in which he stabbed an acquaintance, Red Bank police are reporting this morning.

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The 21-year-old victim, who was cut across the chest and one arm with what police believe was a knife, was treated and quickly released from Riverview Medical Center that day, says Capt. Steve McCarthy.

Armando Cruz, 20, was arrested Friday afternoon at the Red Bank Municipal Court offices. McCarthy says he’s not at liberty to say why Cruz was in the same building as the police station, except to note that Cruz wasn’t there to surrender himself.

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PET PROJECT: THE BACKSTORY

Check out the new commercial for the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, produced by Red Banker and self-styled “multimedia darling” Judie Luszcz.

In an email to redbankgreen, graphic artist Luszcz gives props (OK, we admit we have still no idea what ‘props’ are) to a whole slew of people who had a hand in the production. Reading it, one begins to get a sense of why those entertainment industry awards shows go on for so long.

Who knew it took so much talent and effort for a 60-second spot?

The unsurprising thing, of course, is that so much of the talent is local.

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NYT ON ‘MACBETH:’ GORY, ITCHY & QUICK

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A review in today’s Jersey section of the New York Times of the Two River Theater Co.’sMacbeth‘ takes note of the over-the-top spillage of blood.

It’s a production, writes reviewer Naomi Siegel, that “oozes, drips and squirts forth a river of crimson horror.”

From the review:
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This must be fun, one presumes, for the large and talented cast melodramatically sporting the ketchup-colored goop, but how about the backstage minions who have to make stage, costumes and actors pristine before the next blood bath?

Taking its cue from the Grand Guignol tradition and with magic tricks courtesy of Teller, the play, co-produced with the Folger Theater in Washington, revels in the ghoulish and the bizarre. When one of the Weird Sisters is run through with a sword, the body disappears into thin air. Lady Macbeth, in her sleepwalking scene, bloodies herself with a mere swipe of her hand.

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DUCK HUNTING SPARKS RIVERFRONT BATTLE

The hunters say they’re keeping alive a tradition that’s lawful and safe. The nearby residents say it rattles their nerves and sends their dogs hiding beds.

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At issue is duck-hunting along the Navesink River in Fair Haven, and the conflict gets some ink in the real estate section of today’s New York Times.

From the article:

As for state officials, they appear to discern nothing yet but the loud buzz of community debate. Perhaps the only message coming through clearly is the one aimed at those who think about buying or renting property near a riverside in New Jersey: Caveat emptor. Those “riv vues” may have a disconcerting soundtrack.

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SCANT NEWS IN DOUBLE SHOOTING

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Two months after he’s alleged to have shot two brothers in a dispute at the Montgomery Terrace apartments, fugitive Anthony Sims is believed to have been living a “nomadic existence across Monmouth and Ocean counties,” today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The Nov. 26 shootings left one of two brothers, whose names have never been released, trying to regain his ability to walk after taking a bullet to the neck, according to sources who know him; the other victim was released from hospital care in short order.

Sims, though, went on the lam and has yet to be caught. “Investigators believe Sims has been traveling between, and alternately staying in, the Red Bank, Eatontown and Toms River areas,” the Press reports, citing police Capt. Steve McCarthy as the source.

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RIDING ACROSS AMERICA, ALL ZIPPERED UP

Jacksons2Rev. Elmer Jackson, left , and his son, Jeff, in training at WOW in Middletown.

By TIM HATHAWAY

Before having open heart surgery in June 2006, Rev. Elmer Jackson met a bicyclist who had already been through the procedure.

“He said I was going to be part of the ‘Zipper Club,'” Jackson recalled, as he pointed to the area where the doctors would make the incision in his chest. The stitches leave marks that turn one’s torso into something resembling a duffel bag.

According to the American Heart Association, about 700,000 people undergo open heart surgery each year. But it’s probaby a safe bet that few Zipper Club members ride a bicycle across the continental United States to celebrate.

This year, on June 1, Jackson — the founder and principal of the West Side Christian Academy — and his son, Jeff, will set out from the San Francisco area and trek 3,500 miles across deserts, mountains, rivers and plains to Sandy Hook. The expect to arrive on July 5, averaging 100 miles of leg-pumping a day.

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KAMIN: AN ‘OPRA HORROR’ IN FAIR HAVEN

Every so often, sleepy old Fair Haven stirs itself to controversy. It happened this week when resident Art Kamin, longtime editor of the now-vanished Red Bank Register and a past president of the New Jersey Press Association, aimed a broadside at Mayor Mike Halfacre over access to public information.

Kamin’s op-ed piece, which first appeared in the Asbury Park Press, follows, and Halfacre’s counterpoint is published here. Kamin declined to be photographed by redbankgreen; the headshot of him below is several decades old.

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Here’s another story on the use, misuse and abuse of New Jersey’s flawed Open Public Records Act. This one involves my hometown of Fair Haven. It’s a wonderful little town. But in recent months, a governmental arrogance has developed as one problem after another beset the borough.

Sometimes you have to ask if anyone is watching the municipal store. And when the tough questions are asked about what is going on, you get banished to OPRA, that stalling tactic for delaying the release of public information with the hope you’ll just go away.

The situation hit a flash point in November when the all-Republican governing body unceremoniously — and unjustly — ousted public works department director Thomas Curcio, used police to escort him off municipal property and replaced him with an in-house engineer, Richard Gardella. The Borough Council has not disclosed his complete credentials or identified the other candidates for the job.

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HALFACRE: SPEAKING OF DISCLOSURE…

Halfacre_10108_3Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre

As noted above, here’s Mayor Mike Halfacre’s response, solicited by redbankgreen, to Art Kamin’s op-ed piece, which ran this week in the Asbury Park Press.

It is unfortunate that Mr. Kamin, despite his background in journalism, has chosen not to disclose some important facts about his experience with Fair Haven and his quest for public information.

First, Mr. Kamin failed to disclose that he and the Borough of Fair Haven have a long-running dispute about the responsibility to pay for maintenance of the private pond upon which his house is adjacent. Mr. Kamin does not like the fact that the Borough will not pay to clean-up and maintain his privately owned pond, which has no public access and which is bordered on, and owned by, several private homes.

Second, Mr. Kamin does not acknowledge that he sought some confidential information about Borough employees, which, by law, cannot be disclosed.

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SLEDGER: DYFS HEAD RYAN RESIGNING

RyancorzineKevin Ryan, right, with Gov. Jon Corzine in 2006.

Fair Haven resident Kevin Ryan, credited with having turned around one of New Jersey’s most trouble-plagued public agencies — the former Division of Youth and Family Services — is leaving the Corzine administration for a new job, the Star-Ledger reports.

The Sledger says the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families “is expected to announce his resignation today, two years after Gov. Jon Corzine tapped him to salvage the floundering effort to reform New Jersey’s child welfare system.”

The reason for the departure, according to two sources who spoke to the Sledger on condition of anonymity: money.

Ryan and his wife, Clare, of Fair Haven, have six children ranging in ages from 2-1/2 to 16, and they are worried about college expenses. Cabinet-level positions pay $141,000 a year.

Ryan declined to comment on his personal situation.

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FAIR HAVEN’S ELDEST RESIDENT DIES AT 101

Ethel E. Armstrong, a Little Silver native who moved to Fair Haven in 1953 and never left, died Sunday at 101 years old, the Asbury Park Press reports.

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On his blog, Mayor Mike Halfacre, says she was Fair Haven’s oldest resident.

According to her obituary, Mrs. Armstrong was

a devoted member of Fisk Chapel A.M.E. Church, Fair Haven, where she served as an usher and as a member of the Willing Workers ministry and she was actively involved with the Senior Citizens of Fair Haven.

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FASHION FORWARD

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Each year, the Buccaneer Booster Club at Red Bank Regional High School gives out thousands of dollars in scholarships to graduating seniors and grants to teachers.

The organization, which functions as the school’s parent-teacher organization, also raises money for academic and athletic enrichment, staff appreciation and building beautification.

And this is where the money comes from — or a good portion of it. A big annual event.

On Sunday, the boosters will hold a fundraiser disguised as a luncheon fashion show, in which students from the Fashion Club and the mothers of students will model partywear from Marisa, Ellen Ryan Tolen’s boutique on Broad Street in Red Bank.

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MENNA: LANDLORD CRACKDOWN COMING

MennapringleMayor Pasquale Menna, left, and borough attorney Ken Pringle, who’s also the mayor of Belmar.

Today’s Asbury Park Press has a story about a plan by Mayor Pasquale Menna to go on the offensive against residential landlords who allow their properties to become overcrowded or rife with code violations.

From the story:

Bad landlords, beware. The world, or at least the borough, will know your name and misdeeds, starting Monday under a plan by Mayor Pasquale “Pat” Menna to publish the names of the worst offenders.

Menna announced his plan earlier this month, and on Jan. 14 said the program will be rolled out Monday as part of the borough’s ongoing crackdown on building code violations and overcrowding, especially on the west side of town.

“As early as the next council meeting (Jan. 28), we’ll have a list of the first offenders,” Menna said. “We’ll make that public.”

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